Caring for Palestine: Christmas Tree Lighting in Manger Square

We just had the Christmas tree lighting in the Manger Square, Bethlehem and
it was beautiful. It was appropriate to reflect on challenges and
opportunities in the ongoing struggle. If we believe that Jesus brought the
message of peace, the tumult in his era seems remarkably similar to this
era of occupation, repression, religious zealotry, corrupt leaders etc.
Yet, 2014 could be summed up as the year in which the parameters of the
struggle were made much clearer. It is a struggle between the elite rich
who have increasingly pushed for more police and military to protect their
gains and suppress the 99.9% of the world that is suffering.  From Ferguson
to Gaza to Kobani, the struggle continues.

In this year, we need to remember the tragedy that is Gaza, the tragedy
that is Jerusalem, the tragedy that is Palestine but, we also reflect on
that hope that like the story of resurrection seems to capture hearts
and minds of millions of people. Yes, we did suffer the incalculable loss
of thousands of Palestinians butchered this summer in Gaza. We remember
that despite the promises given by politicians, Gaza even became more
isolated and the noose tightened on the lives of 1.6 million human beings.
Egyptian and Israeli governments seems hell-bent on strangling any
remaining potential for normal life. The situation is dire and getting
worse daily. Thousands of common people did help and we sent some money
and some supplies but the situation demands more.

The same is also true for Jerusalem where Judaization efforts are accelerating
(which includes ethnic cleansing of native Palestinians and removing/threatening
our religious, cultural and historical infrastructure). Trigger happy soldiers and
settlers still kill Palestinians almost every other day with impunity.

But let me talk of the positive things. Hundreds of Christians from around
the world attended the conference marking the fifth anniversary of the
launch of the Kairos Palestine document (see ). The
conference was appropriately themed around living with dignity. In my
lecture, I spoke of a long history of struggle to live with dignity,
resistance and hope. Life also goes on for our little extended family (and
I mean by that students and volunteers who work with us). This year we
marked a new milestone as we launched the Palestine Museum of Natural
History in the summer. We worked very hard to make sure the first public
activity at the museum was a success: a large science festival where
hundreds of children from 14 schools (one kindergraden) came to the Museum
and did some very important experiments (touch, feel, do) from 20-29
November. The feedback from students and teachers was amazing. We also
built a pool and started to do planting and permaculture work on site which
will become a beautiful natural botanical garden in the middle of
Bethlehem. Much more work is needed. We are always looking for volunteers
(for all sorts of tasks from gardening to computers to scientific research)
and we are beginning to explore and ask for potential funding. To help us,
please visit (volunteering) (donations)

Also Donate to Shepherds’ Night Festival in Beit Sahour

Boycott Coca-Cola (BTW it is also healthier for you 🙂

Virtual 3D tour of Church of Nativity

I am on the advisory committee of a project by Ads Against Apartheid, which
is trying to promote Palestinian Human rights through a national
advertising campaign. They ran advertisements already in the Boston subway
system this summer. I feel they can really move people on this issue. Here
is the link to their Indiegogo campaign, which explains their project in
more detail:

Come visit us and keep the hope alive

Mazin Qumsiyeh
Professor and Director
Palestine Museum of Natural History
Bethlehem University

Olives and Nature, Oct. 19 Palestine Museum of Natural History

We just finished harvesting our olive trees.  It is hard work and in our
case produces a limited material since we only have five trees in our yard
(this year 45 kg of oil and we pickled some jars of olives). But many of
our friends and relatives can only dream of their olive trees which are now
on the other side of segregation and annexation wall. One of the volunteers
in our museum of Natural History ( tells me that his
family had 150 olive trees and they were able to visit  through a special
permit four years ago and they had to walk through a special gate in the
apartheid wall many kilometers away from their land (no mechanized
transportation allowed on the land). Alas Israel then uses many rules to
steal Palestinian lands (they restrict or prevent access to the land and
then they confiscate it because it is “not tended”).  But this is one of
the 100+ ways to steal land. Zionists are sophisticated 20th and 21st
century land pirates. But still Palestinians who still have access to some
of their lands or some of their olive trees keep trying and keep
persisting. It is what we call sumud. Activists from around the world come
to help especially in the areas near the Jewish racist colonies built on
stolen land. Settlers this season like in other seasons, steal olives, burn
olive trees, and attack farmers. The Israeli government encourages them
with subsidies and military protection.

Many of the readers of my weekly emails ask that I tell them what is going
on here and I do but I am also focused on what we (every one of us) can do
to change circumstances and not just here but around the globe. I try to
make suggestion for actions but I believe fundamental transformation in our
societies is needed to transform our world from this suicidal path we are
going down (wars, conflicts, climate change, consumerism etc). Sometimes it
is very difficult to effect transformation in societies. Transformation
comes from people but most people follow the their own minds which are
shaped by preexisting conditions and prejudices. Most people (especially
older ones) have limited capacity to change because they are trapped in
their own minds which are shaped by years of conditioning through family,
through religious teachings, through schools, and through a community.Early
education is important but we also do not despair of changing adults
starting with ourselves. Change is integral to life. We as a species can do
better and must do better.

An important article about our Palestine Museum of Natural History
published in the excellent magazine called “This Week in Palestine”
(even though the museum is not open to the public now, we welcome visitors
by arrangement especially those who may help us through volunteer or other
ways, see )

An article I wrote 5 years ago about the olives and the olive harvest

Under cover of reconstruction, UN and PA become enforcers of Israel’s Gaza

Mazin Qumsiyeh
Professor and Director
Palestine Museum of Natural History
Bethlehem University